*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
November 20, 2014, 06:32:45 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 138 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: 1 2 [3] 4
Print
Author Topic: [Steampunk Crescendo] Out on a limb  (Read 10263 times)
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2775


WWW
« Reply #30 on: February 04, 2012, 04:25:11 AM »

Dave, David - you have a really good dialogue going here, don't let me derail. I'll just take a stab at the marketing question from a different side.

You see, my own experience in marketing and being marketed to, game-wise, is that there are vast gulfs of experience and terminology between people, and these gulfs ruin most attempts at communication. This is why generic spiels have never sold me on a game. Never. There simply doesn't appear to be a set of buzz-words you can string together to make me interested. One would think that a Forgista like me would jump on anything that reads "It's got conflict resolution", but in truth that's old hat to me. My experiences selling games to others have been similar in that I do develop spiels for various games over time, but whether they strike home on a person is totally hit or miss: I've sold Zombie Cinema for several years now, for example, and I've practically decided to just shut up and show how the game runs because neither technical nor thematic exposition seems to be a good predictor for whether a given person would be interested in the game. Some people are excited about the Romero zombie thing but hate the mechanics (expecting a more traditional experience, I imagine), while some are lukewarm on both the zombies and Forgista philosophy until they see the game and realize that it's shallow structured freeform, at which point they fall in love with it, and yet others come in excited about seeing my Forge game (people who know me from the 'net, I mean) and go away disappointed at how simple the game is. Talking is a waste of time, I have to show the game to a person to gauge whether they get it or not. There are words for the thing that sells the game to people or not (stuctured freeform with drama arc, conflict resolution and GM-full shared storytelling), but the customer doesn't know these words, so what's the use?

Looking at it as a customer, the spiels that would work for me would be about cultural context - or namedropping, to be more exact. Tell me that this game is by a published Forge author or other designer whose work I've accepted in the past, say, and I'll check it out as a matter of principle. Tell me that Ron Edwards consulted on the development. Tell me that you decided to make a game that nails my favourite TV show, and I might go for it - I don't like traditional design, so I've gotten disappointed often by this sort of argument.

However, what I'm getting at here is that after reading Dave's descriptions of what his game is like, I'd like to share my impression: what I heard here will totally sell me if the punk part is genuine. I would still check it out in a bit more detail even if it's just WW-style posing, but if there's real punk in there (meaning anger, frustration, desperation and clear opportunity for political stances in the fictional context, and consequences for the same), then it's an immediate sale.

What makes me react this way are the following three points which jumped at me while skimming your dialogue:
  • You can take however many vampire powers you want, but each comes with increasing vampiric drawbacks. That's cool, I could go places with that as desperation drives vampirism and ultimately grid-locks the poor vampire into the box where the Hunter operates.
  • Players choose between going for the Goal or the Antagonist. I don't know what this means in detail, but it sounds cool - I could make the game that does tricks with that. I expect that it'd be fun to GM the game if you have a thing with antagonists going, like they're predeveloped or whatever, and the mechanics protect their dramatic position a bit, and they get to crush the dreams of the PCs. Also, these two points together paint me a picture of modern, considered design, which is important to me because nothing kills my interest as quickly as indications that a game's been constructed within the traditional echo chamber.
  • Is it real punk? Dave's talking like it is, but there's gnawing doubt - roleplayers don't understand punk, they give me pussy poseurs in street clothing, and their games are all about doing some commando hits for the Ancilla instead of politized desperation of the working class.

Looking at the message I got here, what we need to think about is whether the above is idiosyncratic to me, or whether I'm representing some market demography here. Also, whether the game can pay off on my expectations, as it doesn't make sense to sell me the game if it's going to disappoint me - better to work on the people who'll like the game and give it good buzz. Once you've figured out my demographic inclinations and where more people like me hang out, you can just go post that list of selling points for those people: tell them that your game has the things that sold me on it, and you'll hook them as well.

More generally, don't just move on my impression: run your spiel and your game by other people and do some focus group research; find out what makes people burn on your game. Outright ignore the ones who don't seem at all interested; they're not in your target audience. But the ones who read stuff about your game or read your whole game and get that excited reaction I got, those - find out what hooked them. Get them to make a list like I did above. Figure out whether you have multiple target demographics, perhaps there are different people liking your game for different reasons. Perhaps there is just one audience and I'm an exemplar of that. Either way, once you have your focus grouping done, you can develop intelligent marketing for that specific audience.

As a closing, I'd like to say that while I have a good handle on marketing theory, I never could bother to do active marketing for my own games to the degree they'd deserve. So while I have some sense for the target demographics of eg. Zombie Cinema, I mostly use this data in convention marketing and in designing my website. This is because I care more about designing new games than pushing an old one; this is a common flaw in indie publishers. If you don't share this flaw, there's nothing stopping you from doing targeted net community marketing or even banner advertising and such paid spamming, once you figure out who your audience is and what needs to be said to hook them.
Logged

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #31 on: February 04, 2012, 11:15:10 AM »

Eero, suppose that Steampunk Crescendo doesn't specifically support punk (in the sense you describe -- desperate working class action with political significance), but provides some tools that you could put to good use if you bring your own punk agenda to the game and push it on your group.

If that's the case, what would you like to be told about the game?  What would get you most excited about it without being misleading?

I ask because my impression is that, while you can certainly pick a punk portion of the setting and a punk Goal and Drawback for your character, the other characters and Antagonist might be very much not punk... that is, unless you can orchestrate a group agreement of "let's do punk" during the setting-customizing phase.  (Dave, please correct me if that's inaccurate!)
Logged

here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development
dindenver
Member

Posts: 1049

Don't Panic!


WWW
« Reply #32 on: February 13, 2012, 12:34:03 PM »

OK,
  I'll reply to Dave and Eero in a bit. When I thought this thread was ended, I started thinking about how to describe this game and then I remembered the original design goal.
I wanted to make a game where Temptation was a tangible part of play. That is why Vampire powers are so easy to get. That is what there is a moral code built into the game system. I wanted to define that temptation and shine a spot light on it. "Don't do these things, but if you do, you will become a vampire with cool powers. Oh and you will need human blood to survive..."
I am going to craft a modified version of our pitch David and post it here. Let me know what you think when you see it.
Logged

Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
dindenver
Member

Posts: 1049

Don't Panic!


WWW
« Reply #33 on: February 13, 2012, 12:41:24 PM »

Eero,
  To name drop, my main influences were Cyberpunk2020, Vincent's Otherkind and Joe McDonald's Point of Collapse.
  As to punk. I am not sure I can claim the punk crown. But I can say, I shot for a more sincere punk ethos. Meaning I gave the players tools to start a revolution, but gave the Establishment the same powers. It is pretty easy to setup a punk 'verse with this era. There was a lot of popularism happening and a lot of exploitation happening. That combined with the ability for bad people to coordinate or much longer distances effectively sets the stage for the perfect, you can change the world, but don't bother because the world is happy as it is type setting. Here is an excerpt from the final book:
How do I get that "punk" feel, if the characters have awesome powers, magic and superscience?
Making the game grittier by making the game more lethal to the characters or limiting the characters' ability to accomplish anything, does not make the game more "punk." The "punk" feeling comes from hopelessness. You can achieve this vibe by portraying normal people as accepting the current status quo as well. When everyone around the characters defines their own lives through the limits put on them by their oppressors, it sets a tone that you can't get through numbers or failed conflicts. When the characters can work hard, accomplish their goals, and the world is still a depressing mess. This will have a subtle affect on the themes and game play at the table.

  This is from the GM section and is intended as advice on how to deal with the characters' awesomeness.

  I dunno if this gets the Eero seal of approval or not ;-) , but I admire your work and hope it at least gets you to check it out.
Logged

Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
dindenver
Member

Posts: 1049

Don't Panic!


WWW
« Reply #34 on: February 13, 2012, 12:52:20 PM »

David,
  Thanks for chiming in, this is really helping me hone my message. I have been so focused on making a good game, then making a good book that this stuff hasn't even occurred to me.

Quote
Suppose that Steampunk Crescendo doesn't specifically support desperate working class action with political significance
  Well, that is what I am attempting to support. the setting part of the game is as deeply punk as I knew how to make it. I am not concerned about punk fashion (although I guess that is part of the culture), but more about the desperate action to try and make the world a better place in the face of greed and apathy.

Quote
What would you like to be told about the game?  What would get you most excited about it without being misleading?
Eero, this is an excellent question. If you want I can send you a link to the GameChef entry so you can see what it is about.

Quote
I ask because my impression is that, while you can certainly pick a punk portion of the setting and a punk Goal and Drawback for your character, the other characters and Antagonist might be very much not punk... that is, unless you can orchestrate a group agreement of "let's do punk" during the setting-customizing phase.  (Dave, please correct me if that's inaccurate!)
David, well, if you were to play the book as written, this is probably not true. There are certain tools that the GM has to keep the players down. For one, the PCs and Antagonists are at odds from square one (this introduces an immediate time sink on the players drive to their Goal). For another, the GM gets to set Goals and Drawbacks for the Antagonists as well. For a third, there is the establishment of several, large, influential organizations that are driven by greed and hubris. And finally, it is established that the NPCs are pretty much willing to accept their lot in life. It is a lot for the players to overcome, if the GM uses those tools. If they do not, there may be some happy unicorns in there somewhere.
Logged

Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #35 on: February 13, 2012, 02:07:23 PM »

I'm curious: do you feel that Stempunk Crescendo reliably produces temptation and desperation in play?  I mean, aside from whether it can or whether it's supposed to.  In your play experience, does it?

The only reason I didn't emphasize those in the pitch was that I wasn't seeing them in your actual play reports in this thread.  Other elements seemed to outshine them.  But maybe I biased that impression with the questions I was asking.
Logged

here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development
dindenver
Member

Posts: 1049

Don't Panic!


WWW
« Reply #36 on: February 13, 2012, 02:26:25 PM »

For Temptation, Yeah,
  I was able to consistently, at least once per session tempt a player into becoming a vampire just by reminding them they could get an extra bonus if they did.
  And it happened when other players GMd as well. The trick is that there is such a low cost of entry and you can't pull out as easily. there have even been one or two players who were like, "I am never going to play a vampire or have anything to do with vampire powers that ended the session with 3 or more powers."

For the desperation, that is harder to tell. I will admit as a GM, I am not good at evoking this response. But I did get some desperate complaining from players who thought the BBEG's were to BBE. And a few who were like, I got my goal, but this world isn't any better, is it? But I dunno if I hit the mark on Desperation though...
Logged

Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2775


WWW
« Reply #37 on: February 13, 2012, 02:56:23 PM »

David's question is difficult, I guess I should read the game to be able to answer that - I mean, you could tell me many things that would specifically perk my interest, but I've no idea which ones would be true for this game.
Logged

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #38 on: February 13, 2012, 07:12:38 PM »

Eero, what I was wondering was a little broader than that.  How excited do you get about each of the following promises?

1) This game puts your working class characters into desperate situations where they must try to change the political system!

2) This game inspires you to play desperate working class punk action with political significance!

3) This game is about struggle and gives characters the power to cause lasting change in their environments.  It goes very nicely with a punk ethos if you want to play that.
Logged

here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2775


WWW
« Reply #39 on: February 13, 2012, 08:45:20 PM »

I thought at first glance that the first angle would be my favourite, as I tend to prefer strong statements and specific game design over wishy-washy generalities. This is definitely not only about my gaming preference, but also about my history with the cultural landscape of roleplaying: the tradition of vague design has betrayed my personal creative goals as a roleplayer, which makes me wary about it. I tend to react negatively towards phrasings that indicate that the designer is trying to create a broadly-applicable toolkit game without more than a setting and some mechanics bringing the process of play together.

The above makes me dislike promise number three, it sounds like the sort of thing we tend to say about a game that's not truly visionary about where it's going. "You can do this cool thing" is not as strong a statement as "In this game you do this".

However, a second glance through those marketing statements actually makes me realize that number two is my real favourite. The problem with number one is that it smacks of excess narrow formalism in my particular rpg-text reading context: I could talk about Parlor Narration or theatrical recipes or games limiting their potential to curtail creative risks, but the nutshell of it is that I've found over the last five years that I do not care much about Mad Libs games that require little else from the players than filling in color for a dramatic arc that has mostly been predetermined. Promising me (like promise 1 does) that the game will definitely take my working class character and put him into a desperate situation where he must change the political system reads too cut-and-dry to me - I'd more prefer a game where I can decide for myself whether my character's circumstances are cause for revolution! In this regard promise number two strikes a more appealing balance.

If I really went into fine-tuning a statement along these lines, I'd probably say that the game is about this thing. "Inspiring" is sometimes a code-word for "I didn't really write a system to support that, but there's lots of fluff", which is less than ideal. Saying "The game is about desperate, politized punk in a victorian milieu" feels like a more neutral statement in this regard, it doesn't ping my overly prickly nose for trad product. Of course, after making such a bold claim it wouldn't hurt to give a couple sentences about how the game is about this thing: who are the oppressed, how is it working-class, what the action is like, so on.

I want to emphasize that I'm just describing myself as a customer here, not commenting on the game itself, which I still haven't read. The above is just me free-associating about David's marketing statements. And as I discussed earlier, you should think hard about your target audiences. Forge hardcore like myself are a narrow audience and not the most important one for most designers, you have bigger fish to catch out there.
Logged

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
dindenver
Member

Posts: 1049

Don't Panic!


WWW
« Reply #40 on: February 14, 2012, 01:20:09 PM »

Here is the blurb I have so far:
Steampunk Crescendo
Will you succumb to temptation?

A roleplaying game for 3-6 players.  3+ hours, one or multiple sessions.
  Intuitive, streamlined ruleset.
  Antagonists are overcome using an action-based resolution system.
  Compelling, dystopian, steampunk setting with room for personalization and change.

In a dystopian era of vampires, magic, and steampunk super-science, you face overwhelming oppression.  Will you oppose your Antagonist?  Will you fight for your Goal, and in so doing, bring meaningful change to your world? Or indulge in the temptations of this world.
Logged

Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
dindenver
Member

Posts: 1049

Don't Panic!


WWW
« Reply #41 on: February 14, 2012, 01:21:17 PM »

So, after reading that, is this a group of statements that are not generic and say something meaningful?
Logged

Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2775


WWW
« Reply #42 on: February 14, 2012, 01:33:02 PM »

That works pretty well for me, except that I personally find objectively modelling statements more immediately comprehensible than suggestive provocative ones. I mean that explanatory paragraph:

In a dystopian era of vampires, magic, and steampunk super-science, you face overwhelming oppression.  Will you oppose your Antagonist?  Will you fight for your Goal, and in so doing, bring meaningful change to your world? Or indulge in the temptations of this world.

Could that be phrased in an external way that does not focus on what it feels to play it, but rather describes the structure that the game's system paints? For example, I find it a more interesting description of the Sorcerer system to say that the Humanity score, which controls your character's viability as a player character, might or might not gain or lose in value for individual moral actions of your character - there is no guarantees case by case. The equivalent subjective description would be something like "in Sorcerer you face dire choices, will they have consequence? Are you capable of resisting madness, despair and peril for your soul?", which is more vague and thus less interesting in my eyes.

I don't know the game enough to craft a similar objectively external description about this, but it would probably be something where you say that the GM is mandated to provide the players with opportunities scene by scene to strive for either stopping their Antagonist or achieving their Goal, and often the two goals will be perpendicular, forcing the player to choose between them. Assuming this is how the game goes, to me that description paints a picture of a clean, well-considered structural principle - I could imagine writing a game on that basis.

Then again, I'm pretty sure that I'm in a minority on this, as there are many roleplayers who don't want to to be told about the game's system as an abstract framework. Depends on who is your ideal audience, I guess.
Logged

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
dindenver
Member

Posts: 1049

Don't Panic!


WWW
« Reply #43 on: February 14, 2012, 03:24:06 PM »

Eero,
  I dig what you are saying, but there is not a game I know that follows a similar model.
  To break down typical play, you do the following:
1) Player picks a scene type (Exploration, Exposition, Research or Confrontation)
2) Player sets the scene
3) GM enters the scene and roleplaying starts
4) If a conflict breaks out, players declare Intentions for this conflict
5) Players declare Action Types
6) Players roll three dice (modified by their Action Type)
7) Players assign dice (after rolled) to Ambition, Cunning and Vigilance
8) Ambition totals vs Ambition totals are compared and players earn progress towards their Intention
9) Cunning totals are compared to Vigilance totals to see who gets hurt.
10) If everyone is willing and able to fight for their Intentions, go back to step 5
11) A player gets their Intention and die roll penalties are assessed for the next conflict based on how bad characters were hurt.
12) When the Scene ends go back to Step one with a different player.

  Basically, I took the mechanics from otherkind and made them a "roll vs" mechanics (both sides of a conflict roll, assign and compare totals).
Logged

Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
dindenver
Member

Posts: 1049

Don't Panic!


WWW
« Reply #44 on: February 14, 2012, 03:24:51 PM »

Oh,
  So, to follow that up with a question, how do I describe that succinctly?
Logged

Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
Pages: 1 2 [3] 4
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.16 | SMF © 2011, Simple Machines
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!